Actual Church Bulletins:
—The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
—The sermon this morning: “Jesus Walks on the Water.” The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus.”
—Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
—Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.
—For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
—At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What Is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.
–Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow.
—The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
—This evening at 7 PM there will be hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin..
—Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM.. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.
—Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door..
—Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
—The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: “I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours”
An Internet site advises this Wellness Tip: “Go on and laugh! Whether your preference is giggle, chuckle or guffaw, here are a dozen well-being benefits of laughter: Increases antibodies in saliva that combats upper respiratory infections. Secretes an enzyme that protects the stomach from forming ulcers. Conditions the abdominal muscles. Relaxes muscles throughout the body. Aids in reducing symptoms of rheumatism. Has positive benefits on mental functions. Reduces blood pressure and heart-rate. Helps the body fight infection. Releases endorphins which provide natural pain relief. Tightens stomach muscles. Helps move nutrients and oxygen to body tissues. AND, it makes you feel good!”
“Why, Joe, we’re Christians and we must take seriously the business of building the Kingdom and saving souls and making disciples-we don’t have time to laugh”.
And to that I would say look at how many empty seats there are in any church on any given Sunday-maybe we should try a different approach? Perhaps it’s time to let the joy of our salvation show just a little more on the outside. Besides, if you really don’t believe God has a sense of humor, just look around you!
There is something to be said about having a joyful attitude and demeanor when spreading what is supposed to be GOOD NEWS. I wrote a song called The Dead In Christ Blues that addressed the over-seriousness of so-called Christians. One verse says “There’s joy in our salvation-we’re all sinners saved by grace. So if you’re saved and you know it, then why don’t you tell your face?”
God has a holy sense of humor, as the following stories from the Bible will plainly illustrate. Consider this story from Acts chapter 20. In this story the Apostle Paul is preaching, and he preached for a very long time! I’m talking, a really long time. I’m not going to make any correlations to any long-winded preachers we know, I just think this is a hilariously funny story, of course I’m twisted that way Again, from the Message Bible:
7-9We met on Sunday to worship and celebrate the Master’s Supper. Paul addressed the congregation. Our plan was to leave first thing in the morning, but Paul talked on, way past midnight. We were meeting in a well-lighted upper room. A young man named Eutychus was sitting in an open window. As Paul went on and on, Eutychus fell sound asleep and toppled out the third-story window. When they picked him up, he was dead.
10-12Paul went down, stretched himself on him, and hugged him hard. “No more crying,” he said. “There’s life in him yet.” Then Paul got up and served the Master’s Supper. And went on telling stories of the faith until dawn! On that note, they left—Paul going one way, the congregation another, leading the boy off alive, and full of life themselves.
Now we can laugh at this story, first off because we can all relate to falling asleep during a long sermon, and secondly because the story has a happy ending. But try to picture this scene-Paul is preaching and goes on for hours, and finally this guy falls asleep and falls out of the window. Paul goes down, brings him back to life, and then picks up where he left off and continues preaching! I’m twisted, but somehow I see this as the kind of skit Tim Conway and Harvey Korman would have done on the Carol Burnette Show. This is funny. I can almost hear the young man saying “Geez, what’s a guy have to do to give a hint. You killed me once already-don’t do me anymore favors.”
So you’re still not convinced? Let’s try one last story found in I Samuel chapter 5. And this is the story you will only hear here this morning-I can pretty much guarantee it!
Let me set the story for you. The Philistines have stolen the Ark of the Covenant from Israel, a big no-no in God-eyes. And they take it back and place it next to the image of their God, Dagon, another big no-no. Let’s pick up the story from the King James version, just because it’s funnier.
2When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it next to Dagon 3And when they arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. 4And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. 5Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon’s house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day.
So the first part of the story, God knocks over their little image of Dagon so that he’s flat on his face, then after the Philistines set him back up, the next day he’s knocked over again, but he was missing his head and hands. God could have destroyed the whole place or burned the image up entirely or struck it with a bolt of lightening, but instead, He toys with the Philistines by just slapping their little god around a bit. But it gets better!
6But the hand of the LORD was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, (Hemorrhoids) even Ashdod and the coasts thereof. 7And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god. 8They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither. 9And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts.
I’m sorry, but that’s funny stuff! You Gotta love God’s sense of humor. But wait, there’s more.
2And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place. 3And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you. 4Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. 11And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the images of their emerods. 15And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone: and the men of Bethshemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.
Now you know why hemorrhoids always burn! It’s the Philistines fault. So it begs to question-they were told to make golden images of their hemorrhoids and present as a sacrifice. How could they possibly have known what they looked like? I leave that up to your imagination. The Bible is full of humor, especially if you tend to have a twisted sense of humor like mine. It is the only book that is an historical document, a love story, a mystery, a tragedy, a comedy, a how-to manual, a motivational book, and on and on. But you’ll never know the wealth and diversity of The Bible without spending some serious time in it, including, as we’ve just demonstrated, the Old Testament.
So what’s the point? Was I just trying to be a comedian today and get you to laugh-ABSOLUTELY. Most people who know me would say I need to laugh more myself. Here’s the essence of today’s message. When Christ ascended into Heaven, He gave us a commission to spread the Good News of love and peace and hope and forgiveness. There should be something beautiful and attractive and compelling about the Gospel to those who hear it and see it for the first time. But instead of joy, we hear fiery sermons intended to literally scare the hell out of people-we see others standing on street corners with signs that say repent or burn. We hear legalists condemning everything from tattoos to dancing to having a drink to showing your knees and elbows in public to staying up past 10 PM. What kind of model of Christianity is the un-churched world seeing from us, and what are we showing them that would attract them to the cross of Christ? The message of Christ should not be preached and presented solely as an insurance policy to avoid hell-it is much more than that!
When other see us at work or out and about or even in church, they should see something in us that makes them say “Whatever they have, I want some of that too”, like the TV commercials-I’ll have what she’s having! Anything less is not in keeping with the true character of Christ, our namesake. I’ve seen bumper stickers that say “Lord, deliver us from other Christians”. It would be funny if it weren’t true! There are far too many Christians who take up their cross daily and have sucked all the life out of their Christian witness. They misrepresent the Gospel of Joy and Peace in a way that would turn anybody off or away from the message we’re supposed to deliver. Our Christian lives should be Christ like in every aspect. It’s as though we are walking mirrors so that when God shines His light down to us we reflect the exact image of God without any distortions unlike mirrors in a funhouse, twisted, out of shape and hard to determine.
Listen to the words in I John 1 and ask yourself if your Christianity looks like this:
1 John 1 3-4We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
This is why we laugh-this is why we enjoy special occasions in life-this is what our faith should look like to others who need to know the whole story. There is a time to be reverent and to wait on the Lord-a time to be on our knees and faces in holy respect of our King, but there is also a time for joy and music and praise and yes, laughter. It’s ok to enjoy your faith and to do so in a way that draws others who want to know more about our joy and our hope. The world should be envious of the hope and joy we have, to the point of wanting some for themselves. If there is joy in Heaven when one sinner repents, then there should be joy on earth as we reflect Christ in our lives.